A senior manager at Google, named Tanuja Gupta, resigned from the company on Wednesday, 1 June, after a Dalit rights activist was not allowed to give a presentation on caste following emails by employees calling her "anti-Hindu."
In April this year, Thenmozhi Soundararajan, the founder of Equality Labs, a Dalit civil rights organisation, was scheduled to give a lecture to employees of Google News during Dalit History Month.
However, several Google employees called Soundararajan "Hindu-phobic" and "anti-Hindu" in emails to company heads, The Washington Post reported, citing copies of documents posted on Google's intranet and mailing lists that included thousands of employees, as well as interviews with Google employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation.
Soundararajan then appealed directly to Google's Chief Operating Officer (CEO) Sundar Pichai, who hails from an upper-caste Indian family, to allow her to give her presentation. However, she did not receive any response from him.
'Most Institutions Wouldn’t Do What Google Did': Soundararajan
The presentation was cancelled, which led some employees to say that Google was willfully ignoring caste bias.
Gupta, the senior manager at Google News who had invited Soundararajan to speak on the matter, thus put in her papers on Wednesday.
Soundararajan, who has delivered presentations on caste at Microsoft, Airbnb, Netflix, Saleforce, and Adobe, said that Equality Labs had started receiving invitations from tech companies after protests against the killing of George Floyd, an African-American man, in the United States.
"Most institutions wouldn’t do what Google did. It’s absurd. The bigoted don’t get to the set the pace of conversations about civil rights," Soundararajan said.
In Gupta's resignation email, she questioned Google regarding whether it wanted its diversity efforts to succeed.
"Retaliation is a normalised Google practice to handle internal criticism, and women take the hit," Gupta wrote, as per the report.
She was also one of the organisers of the 2018 Google Walkout, which saw 20,000 of the company's employees across the world briefly walking out of their offices as a mark of protest against the company's alleged mismanagement of sexual harassment cases.
The remaining six organisers had already left the company.
'No Way Sundar Pichai Doesn't Know About Caste Issues'
Soundararajan, who is also a Dalit, has spent years urging social media companies to include caste as a protected category for their hate-speech policies.
Sharing her thoughts on Google CEO Pichai, Soundararajan said that he "is Indian and he is Brahmin and he grew up in Tamil Nadu. There is no way you grow up in Tamil Nadu and not know about caste because of how caste politics shaped the conversation," the newspaper reported.
"If he can make passionate statements about Google’s (diversity equity and inclusion) commitments in the wake of George Floyd, he absolutely should be making those same commitments to the context he comes from where he is someone of privilege," she added.
Google spokesperson issued a statement, saying, "Caste discrimination has no place in our workplace. We also have a very clear, publicly shared policy against retaliation and discrimination in our workplace."
"We also made the decision to not move forward with the proposed talk which - rather than bringing our community together and raising awareness - was creating division and rancour," the spokesperson further said.
(With inputs from The Washington Post.)